On Nov. 2, President Viktor Yanukovych made a startling warning at an enlarged government meeting. He said “Law enforcement organs have told me there are purchases of weapons in preparation for a violent attack on the organs of the ruling bodies (of the state),” adding “People have lost their fear and conscience. Who is organizing this?” (Ukrayinska Pravda, November 2).
An anonymous Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) officer told Segodnya on Nov. 3, a newspaper owned by Donetsk oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, that there have been cases of weapons being purchased in Lviv, Kharkiv and other cities. He confirmed that the SBU had “operational information” about increased threats to Ukraine’s leaders. “These are not rumors from the bazaar. These are facts from trusted people,” the SBU officer said. This was the reason, he confirmed, for increasing presidential security and that of other senior state officials. Yanukovych’s cortege to Chernivtsi included 30 vehicles, only 15 less than the level of protection for the US president (see video on Ukrayinska Pravda, November 9).
In September, the Party of Regions began drawing up a draft law to combat “extremism,” as seen in Russia and the CIS. “Extremism” is defined as the “forcible seizure of power,” “intrusion into the work of the authorities” and “hindering the work of the authorities.” If the law had existed in 2004, Orange Revolution protestors, who blocked the government and presidential administration buildings, could have been criminally charged. The Yanukovych administration is paranoid about threats and “sees imagined enemies much like other strongman leaders in Russia and Belarus” (Kyiv Post, Nov. 3). In response to criticism of democratic backsliding Ukrainian leaders, according to one editorial, “have adopted increasingly aggressive rhetoric against both Western and domestic critics” (Kyiv Post, Nov. 3).